It's difficult to work in the masonry industry and not develop an interest in history.The fruit of our craft often reflects the hopes and needs of society. I periodicallycheck on this connection by visiting

So I was both intrigued, yet slightly dismayed, on what I found and didn't find whenI researched what happened in 1918.

I was fascinated to learn that on March 18, 1918, concrete history was made in a harbor near Oakland, Calif. The SS Faith was commissioned as a trading ship by the San Francisco Ship Building Co. According to Rob Bender, a concrete sailing ship buff,t he SS Faith was the first U.S. concrete ship built for commercial use.

Steel was in short supply, and the SS Faith's launch was an engineering initiativeto supplement the nation's merchant fleet with ships of concrete. With the SS Faith'ssuccess, the government soon funded the construction of 12 more concrete ships tohelp in the wartime effort. According to Bender, the SS Faith carried cargo for themerchant trade until 1921, when it was sold and scrapped as a breakwater in Cuba.

My disappointment was the history Web site's omission of an important event thathas had a lasting effect on masonry construction. In 1918, industry leaders formed theNational Concrete Masonry Association.

Later this month Mark Hogan and the NCMA staff will celebrate this milestone with an open house at its headquarters in Herndon, Va. Visitors will not only have anopportunity to reminisce about masonry's great achievements, but experience what thefuture may bring as they tour NCMA's new testing lab.

The timing of NCMA's celebration and open house is tied to another importantindustry event which could have a lasting effecton the future of history. Several national masonry trade groups, led by the Mason Contractors Associationof America, are taking their annual trekto lobby on Capitol Hill in nearby Washington,D.C., during the same week.

I'm certain that few Federal representatives realizethe economic impact the masonry industry'swork has in their district and state. Your effort to meet these politicians on their hometurf will only yield benefits to our industry.

The political results of this upcoming election also will have a dramatic effect onthe way you currently do business. How the new congress opts to view key issues like OHSA, immigration law reform, and a federal economic recovery plan for the housingindustry will directly affect your bottom line next year.

But there's something even bigger on the political horizon. The lobbyists are currentlyposturing their support for a key debate in 2009. Congress will begin work toenact a new national transportation funding bill. This massive transportation act hasbecome more than a roads and bridges debate. It's important that a fair portion of fundingis made available to bring hundreds of needed masonry building structures in a year inwhich most contractors will need work.

A visit to your congressperson could help make that happen.

If you'd like to learn more about the history of concrete ships, I urge you to visitRob Bender's Web site at Bender is also a big fan of masonryin general and has posted some great photos of famous masonry structures in thePhiladelphia area.